05 July 2015


Meanwhile, behind the Blog

Last May was an uneasy month for me, for two reasons. First, I realised that two strategic life choices I had made a few years earlier were mistakes. One was grave enough for me to take it to confession; the other was crazy enough for me to take it to this blog today. You might recall that when I first seriously considered learning a foreign language, I implied that it would be Italian. I changed my mind and went with German because: a) Italian seemed too much like Latin (which I had already studied) and I didn't want to apply myself too narrowly; and b) I believed in the idea that the harder something is, the more satisfaction you get after you finally master it.

Well, that second bit may still be true, but I've discovered an unexpected corollary to it. For there is also great satisfaction to be had in making such quick strides with something easy that you can start to apply it almost immediately. And that was precisely my experience with Italian, when I finally caved in this month and bought an Italian grammar guide.

While it's hard to say that I should have gone with Italian all those years ago, it's as clear as day that if I had made a different choice, my experience of Eurovision 2015 would have been very different. You see, while Germany, Austria and Switzerland had English-language songs this year, Italy sent something that actually sounded as if it came from its country . . .

And I spent the rest of the month trying to memorise it phonetically.

Of course, the lyrics didn't really click until after I started in on Italian grammar as well. And by that time, I realised something personal about language learning and motivation . . .

For the past two years, I have been only one of two in my German class who has had no actual reason to study the language: everyone else has a job opportunity, or a boyfriend, or a German-speaking spouse or parent who finally decided to take the half-Filipino family back to Europe. And curiously, those who are not learning German purely for the love of it are making bigger strides than those who are.

Ha! It's really not curious at all. When you have a pressing purpose, your actions have more direction and more drive.

Well, what Italian has given me is a pressing purpose. Pop songs were, in my quest to master German, a means to an end. They are, in Italian, the end. Having only the faintest hope of traveling to Europe someday, much less doing so on a regular basis, it is the stuff I can enjoy without leaving my country that can really push me forward. And as great as German is, every "real German" resource I've got just doesn't give me the same immediate pleasure that Italian pop music does. 

Nor does deciphering random YouTube comments in German, still a bit of a challenge after two years, live up to being able to understand random YouTube comments in Italian after two months. (Well, okay, not all of them--but a scandalously decent number.) 

And seriously, when you can sing three Italian standards in the shower, from memory, and still need a cheat sheet for your favourite German song, well, you know which language has better carrots. I'm not even counting Piero Barone here . . .

Anyway, back to Eurovision . . . If you watched the telecast, then you know that Italy ended up robbed, though it wasn't the first time. And you also know why I will never, NEVER learn Swedish. (No offense, Itinerante!)

Having written all that, I can get to the second reason last May was an uneasy month for me. Do you remember which book I was leading a readalong for? Well, I can't think of anything more incompatible with Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales than what Eurovision has become since the 1970s. And that's all I can bring myself to say about that right now.


Brandon said...

The selection of romantic movies in the video is rather interesting; I wonder what was their reasoning behind putting together Ghost, Back to the Future, and Spider-Man.

Enbrethiliel said...


I have no idea! I know that they're there to put the "pop" in "popera," but I'm not sure why those particular three were chosen and not others. It makes me wonder which other romantic movies have such readily recognisable scenes.

Brandon said...

One thought I had was that maybe the director (or whoever) just tried to match the guys with leading men that they at least vaguely resembled.

Enbrethiliel said...


There's a thought! But I'm afraid I'd say the key word in your last sentence is "vaguely." LOL! And yet the moment I saw that Gianluca got to be Spider-man, I thought, "Well, of course . . ."